In Stanley (2006), a meditation on New Orleans and A Streetcar Named Desire, Stanley Kowalski—the character immortalized by Marlon Brandon in the Kazan movie of Desire—offers a wonderfully elliptical description of the film. “There was a staircase,” he says, as he stalks the stage. “A job fixing cars, or maybe in a factory? Wet heat. Worn playing cards and cigarette smoke. A fresh steak in wax paper. One wife. One cold shower. One tiger.”
Blanche DuBois is Streetcar‘s tiger, but it’s the leonine presence of Brando that intrigues performer Todd D’Amour and his sister, playwright Lisa D’Amour. That fascination and a childhood spent in New Orleans first compelled the siblings to collaborate on the piece, beginning in 2004. The script altered drastically after the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, pairing a ruined Stanley with a ruined city. It’s an ambitious project, and one that never quite coheres despite the best efforts of the D’Amours and cinematographer Tara Webb.
While live footage and prerecorded montages play on a large screen, Todd prowls in his torn T-shirt, baiting and courting the audience. He offers an amalgam of bluster, confession, and a motivational speech entitled “How to Lose Everything and Still Be a Winnah!” Lisa’s poetic diction is certainly winning, as is Todd’s lusty performance. But this intersection of actor, role, and setting ultimately proves patchy, perhaps a consequence of how the disaster changed the piece. Who knew Katrina’s toll extended to aesthetic matters as well?